"Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun." Words from the wise, or more specifically, words from the six-foot-tall culinary heroine known as Julia Child. Most chefs worth their salt today have internalized many of her witty and whimsical aphorisms, just like they have memorized her classic French recipes.
Julia Child would have been 102 on Friday, and to celebrate her life’s work, we’ve spoken to 10 chefs, food writers, and other prominent figures who remember Child fondly, from Jacques Pepin who co-hosted a TV show with her, to younger chefs like Ken Oringer, who simply recalls his excitement when she walked into his restaurant.
Wine Paired Perfectly with her Sense of Humor
“We were asked to speak at an early morning conference at Fetzer Vineyards in the 1990s that Julia was holding court at… Stephan Pyles and I were asked to go on directly after her interview. When we got to the table that she had been speaking to, we saw coffee cups in front of us… Stephan spoke up first and asked where ‘we might be able to get some (life-restoring) coffee before going on for our radio stint?’ Julia held up her empty cup (pinky finger extended) and beamed brightly at us saying in her classical voice, ‘Oh! This is not coffee, Dearies... It's a delicious mug of Gewürztraminer!’” — Chef Norman Van Aken, Norman’s, Florida
Julia Child with chef Norman Van Aken.
Her Impact was Felt in Even the Most Unlikely Places
“Julia invited my significant other, Paul, and me to join her at a dinner party at a friend’s condo… The condo building was undergoing some renovation. We pulled into a parking space, and as Julia got out, she was approached by a young construction worker, complete with bright yellow hardhat and the requisite tool belt. ‘Aren’t you Julia Child?’ he asked.
‘Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am,’ she said.
‘I want to thank you,’ he said. ‘I watch your show all the time, and you taught me how to cook. Simple things. But I’m really enjoying it.’
Julia thanked him, of course, but I just about burst into tears. Here was the power of her ‘reach’: The most unlikely person you would think to tune in to watch Julia Child. And yet, she had managed to captivate him — and teach him — as much as the rest of us.” —Barbara Fairchild, former editor of Bon Appetit
She Was Not a Stickler for Rules
“I knew Julia for close to half a century when we taped our show together at the end of the ‘90s. On PBS we had a sponsor come in one time — a big vice president at Land o’ Lakes. Julia was never the type of person to kowtow to a sponsor. So one time, she said she wanted to make her own dough. I asked her how much flour, eggs, butter, she would need, and she said ‘I want Crisco.’ And I said, ‘we can’t have Crisco, we have to have Land O’ Lakes.’ So we ended up having half-Crisco, half-Land O’ Lakes butter on the show. That’s the way she was. She acted in person the way she was on television. On TV, of course it’s entertainment, but we always had to teach something. We would always say at the end of the day, ‘what did we teach them?’ It was very important to her.” — Jacques Pépin, world-renowned French chef
Chef Dorothy Hamilton with chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pépin